What is Adobe Commerce?
The biggest names in eCommerce frameworks like Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce are widely known to most, but something new seems to have recently burst onto the scene from software giant Adobe. They've been increasingly promoting a solution that sounds like it's a brand new offering, but what exactly is Adobe Commerce?
Back in 2018 Adobe made a decision. They decided they wanted a piece of the eCommerce framework pie. And they decided they wanted a large piece. They really had two choices - create their own solution and try to force their way into an already crowded and very well catered for market, or just buy out an existing solution and alter it as they saw fit to bring it in line with the rest of their software offerings.
They wanted a solution that would instantly give them a significant customer base, but also a solution that gave them the flexibility to do what they wanted with the software in the future. With solutuions like Shopify and BigCommerce being SaaS based and therefore having limited flexibility, and with offerings like WooCommerce being essentially too basic, Adobe targetted and then acquired Magento for $1.68 billion in 2018. A huge outlay, but considering the size of Adobe, they probabnly considered it not much more than a nice little side project that needed significant work before it would turn the kind of profit they wanted.
Adobe acquires Magento
When Adobe first acquired Magento, there was a level of concern as to what changes Adobe would make to the software, and whether they would approach it like a bulldozer, discarding and undoing a lot of the elements that had made Magento so popular over the years. But it would also be accurate to say that this was generally limited to a 'mild' level of concern as the Magento community had seen this kind of thing happen before when eBay had bought Magento.
When eBay owned Magento very little changed in terms of development direction and the business decisions driving forward progress. eBay basically seemed happy to let the Magento team get on with what they were doing and just benefit from a bit of additional profit by introducing more paid sales funnels from things like more developer certifications, and a wider range of agency affiliation opportunities.
For a few years the story seemed to be very much the same with Adobe. Things carried on much as before with very little changing in terms of development direction or the addition of new functionaliity. But behind the scenes Adobe were putting things into place to execute their plan of bringing Magento in line with their Experience Cloud suite of products. Now this wasn't unexpected - they'd been clear this was the intention right from acquisition in 2018.
But what Adobe didn't say back in 2018 was that their plan for integrating Magento into Experience Cloud was likely to spell the end for Open Source edition, while also changing Commerce edition to such an extent that the key element that had made Magento such a success in the first place - it's hugely versatile codebase - was to be retired.
In February of this year at the Adobe Developers Live: Commerce conference, Adobe laid out what many would consider to be controversial plans for the future of Magento. Understandablly this sparked huge amounts of discussion and debate about how exactly things would pan out in the future for Magento store owners and developers.
I look at what was said and offer my thoughts in another blog post, but the core of what was announced boiled down to:
- No new features or functionality are coming to Open Source, ever
- No new featrures are being added to the existing Commerce codebase, ever. All new features and functionality are coming only in the form of SaaS service add-ons
- Responsibility for Open Source development is increasingly being handed to the Magento Association
Adobe are engineering a new release schedule which allows them to more or less cut ties with Open Source edition and the existing 'monolith' codebase, and instead concentrate all resources on building out the new SaaS services - probably because SaaS lends itself much more easily to their typical subscription model.
It's interesting that they're referring to the current 'monolith' Magento codebase in a purely negative way. It's true that it's becoming more of a popular approach now in software architecture to use microservices - or a number of smaller pieces of software which work together to offer the full required functionality. But it doesn't mean that a monolith - where full functionality is given in one, more complex piece of software is suddenly bad. Many very visible and well respected developers in the Magento community are certainly not ready to leave the monolith behind, and this was in no small part a driving factor in the Magento Associations willingness to take over responsibiility for Community Edition
The announcement by Adobe left much of the community concerned for the future of Magento. If Adobe are happy to make such fundamental changes to the software without even considering whether it's actually what the community wanted as a whoile, how much further will they be willing to move from the winning formula Magento has worked so hard to establish for so many years?
The end goal for Adobe
While the community has completely justifiable reasons to be concerned - we are after all talking about hundreds of thourands of people's livelihoods in the eCommerce businesses they run - Adobe aren't exactly novices at creating fantastic and successful software. They would be fools to throw away large swathes of the current paying customer base, and I just can't see them doing that. But I do think the chamges they are making will push away a certain percentage of the current paid customer base, but at the same time it will probably attract other new customers.
While I don't think that Adobe have any intention of continuing to support Open Source edition long term, my prediction is that the Magento Association will eventually gain full responsibility for Open Source, and continue to develop the monolith codebase into the foreseeable future - an approach which a lot of people, including me, will strongly support.
So with Adobe Commerce It seems to me that Adobe are attempting to craft something new - a hybrid of extensible codebase and SaaS elements to extend functionality. I really hope that they succeed, but at the moment it does seem like they're attempting to combine two drastically different approaches in a way that can never work long term. If Adobe introduce a subscription model for the SaaS services they're developing, why are they going to continue to let businesses use the free equivalent from the existing codebase?
That's why I can't help but feel that long term Adobe Commerce is going to move to a fully SaaS, subscription based offering, leaving few differentiators between other SaaS offerings like Shopify or BigCommerce. Adobe did the single payment licensing model for years, and chose to move to subscription based, Magento won't be any different. And I can't even see how it's achievable without going fully SaaS. But I hope I'm wrong, or that Adobe just does something totallly different I haven't even thought of.
There's no doubt about it, the community is concerned for the future of Magento in Adobe Commerce, and whatever the future actually ends up looking like, it's going to spell significant change for every Magento user, whether store owner or developer, Commerce or Open Source edition. Adobe need to manage this very carefully to make a success out of a situation where many people are tentatively holding their breath and wondering if it's all going to fall apart.
Don't get me wrong, I do believe that Adobe have the oportunity to prove the doubters wrong and make a genuine success of the future of Magento, while keeping the current community on board. But my guess is that this depends highly on what will line their pockets with the most profit rather than any real concern for the current community and whether proposed changes will push them away.
Tread carefully Adobe.